Home > Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(4)

Into the Dim (Into The Dim #1)(4)
Janet B. Taylor

I threw up my hands. “Oh, you’d love that. ’Cause if she’s dead, you can stop feeling so guilty about hooking up with Stella.”

Since the day my mom—the sun around which we both revolved—went supernova, Dad and I had existed in a kind of wobbly orbit. Two orphaned planets. Polite, unfailingly cordial, but never quite synchronized.

“Bet you wouldn’t just throw me out like this if I was your real daughter,” I muttered, staring out the glass at the trees whipping past.

My dad flinched, hand pressed to his heart as if to keep it from stopping.

I hadn’t cried when he made me go with him to pick out the coffin. I’d remained stubbornly mute while Dad and the funeral director made all the arrangements. During visitation the night before, I heard my grandmother whisper how I was an unnatural, cold child.

None of it had touched me. It wasn’t real.

It took the horrified, wounded look on my father’s face for it to finally break through. I heard it happen, a quiet snap deep inside.

“Dad?” I choked. “Daddy? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t. It’s just that I—I can’t . . .”

“I know, sweetie.” He pulled me across the seat to wrap me in his arms. “I know.”

The tears came then. Because he was right. They were all right. My mother was dead, and I had been so stupid.

Chapter 2

I’D LISTENED IN ON THE KITCHEN EXTENSION WHEN MY dad took the call all those months ago. The man from the Red Cross sounded so apologetic. His proper speech and Hindi accent made the words almost soothing. The search for survivors was called off, he’d explained. Explosives had been set to bring down the rest of the dangerous, mangled mess that had once housed the university lecture halls. Anyone still missing was now presumed dead.

I think Dad even thanked him before hanging up.

Now presumed dead.

The phone had tumbled from my hand as the files in my mind blew open and began to flood with images of death by crushing. Death by suffocation. The walls closed in around me as pain blasted through my brain. Unbearable, unspeakable pain. When my father rushed into the kitchen seconds later, I was curled on the floor, screaming in agony.

I’d had them before. Cluster migraines, the doctors called them. Brought on by my unusual mental “gift,” and exacerbated by severe claustrophobia. They weren’t dangerous, but when my brain—with its photographic capability—took in too much stimuli, it simply couldn’t cope.

Though the shrinks could diagnose the headaches all day long, they’d never been able to pinpoint the exact source of the horrific, breath-robbing nightmare I’d suffered my entire life.

After Mom died, the dream had gotten so much worse.

In it, I’m trapped inside the belly of a great tree. A dank, cold place in which the living wood tries to consume me. Where fat, leggy creatures drop down from the blackness above to roam through my hair and skitter across my face.

For months after Mom died, I woke up every night, biting back screams, my sheets sweaty and tangled around me. They’d recently subsided to only once or twice a week. Though now when the nightmare came, I stayed awake the rest of the night, too afraid to fall asleep again. Without the comfort of her voice or her cool hand to smooth the hair off my clammy face, the monsters always returned.

In the end, I did nothing as they lowered the shiny, tenant-less casket into the ground. Back in our own car, Dad pulled up in front of the house, but didn’t get out. His hands tightened on the steering wheel. “I won’t force you to go,” he said. “But Stella and I will be gone for a few weeks. We’re taking a long drive west, then up to Seattle, and the Alaskan cruise is for two weeks. It’s something she’s always wanted to do.”

I managed not to roll my eyes, but it was a close thing.

“You can, of course, stay with your grandmother.”

I blinked at him. He knew I’d rather live in a cardboard box and take showers with the hose than stay with her. A woman who’d never, in all the years I’d known her, shown me one ounce of kindness.

“No, thanks,” I said, though it left me with decidedly few options. It wasn’t like I had a friend I could stay with.

Or a friend.

“Yes, well . . .” He sighed. “I’m sorry, honey, but those are your choices. It’s your call, though I think the trip would be good for you. We can get you a mild sedative from Dr. Miller for the plane ride.” He squeezed my knee and smiled, as if that was the answer.

A mild sedative. Just the ticket. That would take care of the massive panic attacks that would surely come when I was alone forty-thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

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